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/ INTERVIEW: Johnny Dawes on Climbing Back to 8b+

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UKC News - on 03 Dec 2018
Johnny Dawes recently climbed 8b+ - his hardest climb since 1990 - with an ascent of Inuit at La Pedriza in Spain, near Madrid. Johnny's return to fitness at 54 is especially impressive considering his diagnosis of Hashimoto's disease, an autoimmune illness which affects hormone balance by suppressing thyroid activity.

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pasbury on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to UKC News:

"By taking herbs"

"It's like an onion that's moving around really, really fast, but if you're watching it carefully and you cut it, you will continually get nice bits of small onion off it."

Is there a connection here?

Classic and inspirational Dawes. I'm slightly moist at the prospect of his book on technique.

Post edited at 11:28
Andy Hardy on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to pasbury:

 Does he mean taking the same "herb" muliple times or different varieties of "herbs", I wonder.

Stu Bradbury - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to UKC News:

Top effort Johnny on your return to form & congrats on finding your mojo! I love La Pedriza for the cracks, its a stunning place. When it comes to getting older & climbing I agree with your thinking, I'm 57 now & the key for me is definitely doing what makes me tick, find what you love & get out there and do it! Inspiration fuels motivation.  

pasbury on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to Stu Bradbury:

There's a lot to be said for playing to your strengths!

I know I used to hate steep ground especially roofs and would occasionally flog myself on them in the name of working my weaknesses. I think now I'd rather just do sweet slabs as I'm better at them and find them very enjoyable. Hell they even look nicer.

Ally Smith on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to pasbury:

> I think now I'd rather just do sweet slabs as I'm better at them and find them very enjoyable. Hell they even look nicer.

Wash your mouth out!

Horses for courses...

 

airborne - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to UKC News:

"Talo had ground down the boots with a rotary grinder in the car park"

Huh? Is this yet another bit of gear I need to be taking to the crag?

pasbury on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to airborne:

He talks about boot tech, for low angled friction slabs bare feet are surprisingly grippy. Maybe some kind of super thin boot sole (or spray on footwear) is what he's talking about.

john arran - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to pasbury:

> Maybe some kind of super thin boot sole (or spray on footwear) is what he's talking about.

The very first climbing slippers ever produced to my knowledge were from La Sportiva. They had a sole that can't have been more than 2mm thick - maybe less - and had no rand whatsoever, just very thin, supple upper material.

I had a pair and they were a revelation to climb in. Required an utterly different approach to footwork compared to the relatively stiff alternatives at the time (mid 80s) but were impressively effective on the right kind of route. Main problems were that they tended to roll badly around your foot, and wore out really quickly.

Edit: I think I first saw and tried them in the winter of 86/87.

Post edited at 14:39
pasbury on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to john arran:

I used to love my original Ninjas. They sound a bit like these.

john arran - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to pasbury:

> I used to love my original Ninjas. They sound a bit like these.

Much much thinner soled than ninjas!

john arran - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to pasbury:

Thinking about it, I don't remember finding any UK climber who remembers these. I was in the US at the time and they were being sold off cheap - $10 a pair IIRC - so I couldn't resist.

They must have been an experimental design that was produced in very small numbers. I presume ninjas evolved from this idea, but curiously I'm pretty sure they predated ninjas and all other slippers. They were genuinely radical at the time. You literally curled your toes over and around practically every hold.

Ian Parsons - on 03 Dec 2018
wbo - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to UKC News: I remember them but my recollection is that ninja's predated them.    Who remember the Kalme (?) boots that I think Johnny used for a while.  I remember the yellow and blue Ron Fawcetts too - very sticky, very short lifespan

 

Post edited at 15:32
john arran - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to Ian Parsons:

Very similar, although my memory is that they were purple rather than blue. Wearing them with socks seems like the perfect way to negate any possible benefit!

john arran - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to wbo:

> I remember them but my recollection is that ninja's predated them.    Who remember the Kalme (?) boots that I think Johnny used for a while.  I remember the yellow and blue Ron Fawcetts too - very sticky, very short lifespan

Do you mean Kamet?

I had a pair of the Ron Fawcetts and don't remember them being particularly sticky nor particularly fast-wearing. Are you confusing them with the early Calanques, which were so soft they came with a spare set of soles in the box! That was much earlier though - before firés.

The Ron Fawcetts were marketed under a different name in the US, and they were mainly red, I think. I had a couple of pairs of the US version too and rated them at the time. Can't for the life of me remember their US name though.

Edit: Just remembered there's a photo of me in the US version of Ron Fawcetts, on our old site at http://www.thefreeclimber.com/johnHistory.htm It's the top photo - on Sole Fusion at JTree.

Post edited at 15:53
Luke90 on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to pasbury:

On a similar note of "only Dawes would say that", I enjoyed...

"I was just concentrating really well, I'd been playing a lot of chess and doing a lot of no-hands climbs"

I can totally see how he thinks it's relevant but there's no other climber in the world that would explain his success on a climb with reference to how much chess he's been playing!

Ian Parsons - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to john arran:

> Do you mean Kamet?

I think he means Calma - Lynx 1 and Lynx 2, if I recall; one bendy and the other stiffer. Ben Wintringham was the UK distributor.

I presume Malc's Sportivas were "about" the right size, rather than "exactly" - hence the socks!

wbo - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to john arran: Yes Kamet - I remember getting hold of a copy of Desnivel (spanish mag) and seeing ads for all sorts of shoes I'd never seen before, mostly from them.  The ones in the UK were mostly grey?

The Ron fawcetts look the same apart from the colour

 

Ian Parsons - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to wbo:

Scroll down to Carlos Gallego's post if the link doesn't take you straight there:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=2085964&msg=2087798#msg2087798

pasbury on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to john arran:

Asolo runouts were a nice boot with a really thin sole and somehow a supportive one too - good for slate. I left a pair under Colossus wall in about 1994 if anyone finds them.

john arran - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to Ian Parsons:

Curious. They certainly look to be the same as the ones I was wearing in the JTree photo. Name's not ringing any strong bells though. Maybe they had different names in different markets.

Tom Briggs on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to john arran:

I'm pretty sure Bestard also did a slipper without a rand. I remember seeing it advertised and maybe even being in a review in Mountain?

Mick Ward - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to Ian Parsons:

> Were they these, John?


I remember going to Rubicon with the late Ian Vincent, some time in the 1980s and him producing a pair of slippers which looked about as skimpy as these (the same?) I've always wondered what they were. As John said, they seemed to require a very different style of climbing. At the time, it all seemed a bit weird to me and I struggled to get my head around it. Ninjas, which I had later, seemed like big boots in comparison!

Re Johnny Dawes' ascent of Inuit, I loved his comment, "The nothings kept coming!" which, I guess, is what super-hard slab climbing is all about. I also get the impression, from Facebook posts that, over the last year or so, he's been hanging out with particularly encouraging and supportive people (irrespective of climbing grades). If you do that, it seems reasonable to suggest that you'll feel better about yourself and life generally. Whatever it is though, it certainly seems to be working!

Mick

Andrew Sandercock - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to UKC News:

Made me really happy reading this. Go on Johnny!

Michael Gordon - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to UKC News:

Good stuff. Great to see he's climbing well and starting to get ambitious again. A no-hands ascent of an 8a?! Did I read that right?  

jonathan shepherd - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to Ian Parsons:

Blimey, Malc and Emma, thats an old one Ian.

pasbury on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to Mick Ward:

Yeah but 8b+ Pedriza slab though!!!

Mick Ward - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to pasbury:

Yeah but arguably the most talented climber in history...

Mick

pasbury on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to Mick Ward:

yeah but 54 though (pasbury; aged 53 and three quarters)...

stp - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to john arran:

I had a pair of those slippers. Picked them up on a trip to Italy and visiting Heinz. I don't think they lasted very long. I got a tube of rubber to try to add a bit of a rand. But very interesting to climb in and definitely before Ninjas. I think that might have been in '84.

Sean Kelly - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to john arran:

 

> The very first climbing slippers ever produced to my knowledge were from La Sportiva. They had a sole that can't have been more than 2mm thick - maybe less - and had no rand whatsoever, just very thin, supple upper material.

I too had a pair of (Boreal) slippers that like you said were wonderful on slabs, then I went to Millstone one day and paid a dreadful price. Jamming them into the Embankment cracks I can still feel the pain!!!

 

Mick Ward - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to pasbury:

Yeah, but Ben Moon though, (52 or thereabouts).

Mick

P.S. My mate, Marcus O'Leary, climbed 8a at 63, despite having such a knackered knee he could barely hobble to the crag, on the day. (Afterwards they took out a 50p sized piece of bone which had been floating around in his knee! He'd got the injury some 40 years before in the Alps. No phones for a helicopter rescue, back then. Just grit your teeth in agony for three days.)

P.P.S. Maybe better simply to be inspired by what Johnny Dawes and Ben Moon are doing. I'm guessing  a lot of things go into the mix: lifestyle, genetics, freedom from injury, talent, love of climbing, desire to push yourself, capacity for hard work, self-belief, supportive people around you...

Mick

steve taylor - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to stp:

Calma Lince?

Asolo Opera?

Ian Parsons - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to jonathan shepherd:

> Blimey, Malc and Emma, thats an old one Ian.


Indeed, Shep. Aren't we all!

steveriley - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to UKC News:

Ron got up some pretty stern stuff in Hanwag Crack Specials, red & yellow, contemporary with Fires but not that sticky and pretty stiff. Johnny was sporting the purple Calmas soon after, 2 versions as noted above. My Mrs still has a pair of yellow and blue Scarpas under the stairs for occasional trips on rock. 

Anyway yes, cheering to see these old names pulling hard. Less of an excuse moaning about how hard regaining fitness is in your 50s.

pasbury on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to Mick Ward:

I have the distinct feeling that we are in complete accord.

Toccata on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to UKC News:

If it were not for Mr Redhead no one else in British climbing history would have talked more shit. I only met him once, bouncing enthusiastically up hairpin boulder without using hands, as he was chatting up my newly wed wife. Vis a vis ascerbic but I do not think any other climber has been able to communicate the idiosyncrasies of Britain’s climbing culture more succinctly and charismatically. I am delighted he’s back to form.

Dave Garnett - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to pasbury:

> "By taking herbs"

It's great to see Johnny back (I ran into him on the Skyline recently trying to do San Melas no-handed) but it'll take more than positive thinking and herbs to keep him in this form if he gives up his 'meds' if the diagnosis is correct.

He could try eating buckets of iodine-rich seaweed, but ultimately he'll end up taking the little white pills every day before breakfast.  It's not a big deal, unless there are other autoimmune complications.

 

Southvillain - on 04 Dec 2018
In reply to UKC News:

Frankly, I don't care whether he's climbing 8B+ or V Diff, I just love to hear he's enjoying himself. No-one like him. More power to him, as it were. And if you haven't checked out his (and Nick Dixon's) `interview' (and podcast) by Niall Grimes, do so, it's a joy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gfAxYENlmU&t=1240s

 

Mike505 on 04 Dec 2018
In reply to john arran:

I think the splinter group from 5.10 'Unparallel' have some comp shoes with a 2mm in their line up.

Andrew Sandercock - on 04 Dec 2018
In reply to UKC News:

I also thought it quite interesting (with all this talk of shoes) that he appears to be waring a set of La Sportiva Mythos - not exactly the super technical shoe you'd maybe expect. 

Didymus on 04 Dec 2018
In reply to UKC News:

From one 54-year-old Johnny to another - go Johnny go, go, go!

kevin stephens - on 04 Dec 2018
In reply to UKC News:

Inspirational Johnny, hope for us old gits yet!

Mountain Spirit - on 05 Dec 2018
In reply to kevin stephens:

Spot on!

I am 40 years old.

Post edited at 11:01
Mountain Spirit - on 05 Dec 2018
In reply to UKC News:

Amazing stuff Johnny!

Truly inspirational!

Darren Jackson - on 05 Dec 2018
In reply to UKC News:

I chuckled muchly at the mental image of our hero charging along the roads of the roads of rural Wales clad only in his 'tighty whities'...

I have a suggestion: perhaps recreate the event and get a photo of it up on billboards, Visit Wales? Croeso i Gymru indeed!

RayG - on 05 Dec 2018
In reply to UKC News:

The Dawes is back! Inspirational.

Duncan Campbell - on 05 Dec 2018
In reply to Andrew Sandercock:

Yeah I thought this too but back in Johnny’s heyday these were top end shoes... pretty sure the Huber’s used the Mythos on some of their el cap free ascents. I guess if you are used to using shoes from that era they aren’t totally shit? 

Still impressive! 

Oliver Hill - on 06 Dec 2018
In reply to UKC News: Fantastic news , Johnny.  You aRE TRYING HARD AGAIN. wITH LUCK THAT RENEWED ENTHUSIASM WILL hold back that immune problem. 54 is still pretty young, so you have at least 5 years, may be 10, to go before gently sliding down the slippery slab of life. 

Oliver

SCC Changed - on 06 Dec 2018
In reply to Oliver Hill:

>. 54 is still pretty young, so you have at least 5 years,

> Oliver

Approaching 59, I sincerely hope you are wrong on this one!

paul__in_sheffield - on 06 Dec 2018
In reply to SCC Changed:

> >. 54 is still pretty young, so you have at least 5 years,

> Approaching 59, I sincerely hope you are wrong on this one!

Agreed, also approaching 59 and am just completing building a moonboard and system board at home. Not planning to give up just yet!

RockPhoenix on 06 Dec 2018
In reply to pasbury:

> I used to love my original Ninjas. They sound a bit like these.

OMG yes, I had climbed some of my fave routes in those green Ninjas, namely Coventry Street (which really hurt my toe knuckles) and Poetry Pink - totally different climbs but the Ninjas really served well on both ! 


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